|Photo by A-Giau 2004|
|Photo by A-Giau 2004|
The COVID-19 pandemic has provided many learning experiences. Some we wish we had never needed to endure. Yet others enriched us in unexpected ways as we dealt with new restrictions but had more time to explore unexpected avenues.
For example, muhly grass. I had never heard of this tropical plant. But when searching for the perfect ground cover near the beach house, it turned out that muhly grass has many attributes making it suitable for this climate. It can withstand scorching, direct sun; sandy soil; salt air; and long periods of drought. The root system extends laterally, giving it stability even in gale force winds, and allowing us to plant it over the septic system without concern that deep vertical roots would clog the drainage field.
Most of the time, this perennial grass has attractive blue-green stalks. In late summer through fall, mature plants dazzle the beholder with feathery pink blooms that resemble cotton candy!
Well, at least in the pictures. Our quest for muhly grass began with purchasing seeds in an Etsy store. After payment, I glanced at the fine print and realized the seeds were coming from Romania! The 2-week ETA extended to 5 weeks as the packet was held up in customs in Texas. But evidently the inspectors concluded that it did not contain opium poppy or other deleterious seeds, and it finally arrived at our door.
The seeds were tiny, like the proverbial mustard seed Jesus used as an example of faith (Matthew 17:20). We poked shallow holes in egg-cup sized peat pellets, as the seeds need light to germinate, but enough depth not to blow away. Each day we misted and checked for signs of germination, but there were none.
Three weeks had elapsed, past the expected germination time, and yet no signs of life. Small wonder, I thought, as the seeds could easily have been damaged during their long, arduous, journey full of delays.
On Easter Sunday I again went through this morning ritual. Yet as I lifted the clear plastic cover, a few tiny, fragile, yet unmistakable green shoots had sprouted from their dark tombs! What a fitting reminder of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) Who died for our sins, then arose that all who trust Him would have eternal life!
Our “babies,” as my husband calls them, have a long way to go before they are ready to be transplanted in the ground, and even longer before they delight us with clouds of pink blossoms. Will we have the faith and be afforded the opportunity to see their potential realized?
This ongoing experience reminds me of the parable of the sower, and of Jesus’ command to sow the seed of His Word, no matter what unfavorable conditions we may encounter.
In this parable, Jesus uses the sower to represent one who spreads God’s Word; the seed as a symbol of the Word itself, and the soil as the state of the heart of the one who hears the Word. Mark 4 and Matthew 13 have nearly identical accounts of the parable and its explanation, emphasizing the importance and truth of this Scripture passage.
Jesus describes four conditions of the soil, or the heart, when confronted with the Word. If the seed falls outside the furrow prepared by the farmer, birds will eat it before it can even germinate (Mark 4:4). This represents the person who hears the Word but is immediately distracted by one of Satan’s lies (Mark 4:15). Clearly, this person rejected the Word and was not saved by hearing it
The second heart condition is like stony ground (Mark 4:5-6). Seeds planted here sprout quickly in the shallow earth, but the rocky ledge beneath prevents the seed from rooting. In the sun’s heat, the shoot withers away because it has no root to nourish it with water.
The person whose heart is rocky ground also undergoes no permanent change after hearing the Word (Mark 4:16-17). They react at first with joy but the Word has not taken root in their heart, and the Holy Spirit has not indwelled them because they “have no root in themselves.”
Such a person might be pleased to hear that Heaven could await them, but they do not repent of their sins, trust Christ as their Lord and Savior, or enter into a personal relationship with Christ. We speak of such a person as having a “head knowledge,” but not a “heart knowledge” of the Gospel. They may call themselves Christians and may join a church, but if it becomes politically incorrect or dangerous to do so, they will renounce the “faith” that they never had in the first place (Mark 4:17).
They may even believe that Jesus lived, died and rose from the dead, but that truth does not change their life in any meaningful way – they are not a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). They could be happy with the idea that Christ died so that they could have a “get out of hell free” card, but they see no reason to labor for His Kingdom.
A Biblical example of such a person could be King Agrippa, whom Paul “almost persuaded” to be a Christian (Acts 16:28). Sadly, you can’t be almost saved any more than you can be almost pregnant, and a person who is almost Christian is doomed to eternity in hell.
The third type of soil or heart condition described by Christ is the thorny soil, in which thorns rapidly overtake the good seed of the Word, choking it so that it cannot grow and bear fruit (Mark 4:7). In this situation, the Word never has the chance to affect the hearer, because worldly cares, such as the love of money or power, crowd it out (Mark 4:18-19).
The rich young ruler, for example, asked Jesus how he could inherit eternal life, but he believed he was righteous in his own merit and wealth was his god, leaving no room for the true Savior (Luke 18:18-25). Jesus explained that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24; Mark 10:25).
Another example was Judas, who latched onto Jesus because he thought He would overthrow Roman rule, but his greed (John 12:6) and desire for military power outweighed any alliance he felt to Jesus. The devil entered into Judas (John 13:2), and he was the “son of perdition,” (John 17:12) confirming that he was never saved.
Jesus will disown those who hear His Word but have hearts like stony or thorny soil, even though they may have done good works in His name and may even have shared the Scripture with others (Matthew 7:21-23).
It is not enough to believe that Jesus was a good man, that He died for our sins, or even that He rose from the dead. It is not enough to call ourselves Christians, join a church, or be baptized. We must trust Him, and Him alone, with childlike faith and love (Matthew 19:14; Mark 10:14-15), as our Lord and Savior.
As the saying goes, the distance between knowing about Christ and knowing Him as Savior, Spouse, Brother and Friend could be as little as 15 inches – the distance from head to heart. Only when we accept His precious gift of salvation by grace alone through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9) will the Holy Spirit of Christ indwell our heart (Ephesians 1:13-14).
That state of heart is represented by the good soil in the parable of the sower, in which the seed of the Word grows to maturity and allows the hearer to bear fruit in an increase 30 to 100 times over the seed that was sown (Mark 4:8,20). Ask any farmer what it takes to have good soil, and he will answer that it must be plowed up to remove rocks and weeds and to allow nourishing air and water to penetrate it.
Similarly, our hearts must be thoroughly worked over before we ache and groan with despair over our sinfulness, and before we realize that without our Savior, we can do nothing (John 15:5). Trials and heartache often precede coming to the end of ourselves, making our hearts fertile and ready to receive His saving grace.
The good soil is the only one of the four heart conditions that bears fruit, confirming that this is the only condition resulting in true salvation, in being born again (John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:23). Jesus tells us that we can discern the condition of another’s heart by the fruit they bear (Matthew 7:16-20).
Although we are saved by grace through faith and not by works, we are saved not to sit idly by waiting to go to Heaven, but to do good works, because faith without works is dead (Ephesians 2:8-10; James 2:20,26). Once our own seed of faith takes root, we are to bear fruit by sowing God’s Word in the hearts of others.
Once we are genuinely saved through faith and the Holy Spirit has taken root in our heart, we can never lose our salvation (Romans 8:35-39) even though we may hit barren, rocky or thorny patches. Born-again Christians may grow cold in their faith, backslide and become disobedient, or become unproductive for Him.
Nonetheless, He will never leave nor forsake His children (Hebrews 13:5). He is there waiting like the prodigal son’s Father to run to us and shower us with love once we take the first step back to Him (Luke 15:20). If we repent of our sins, He will renew our faith and revive our hearts (1 John 1:9; Psalm 51:8-12).
May our hearts be like good soil, ready to cultivate His Word and nurture our growing faith to maturity, so we can sow more seed and bear much fruit! May we sow light for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart (Psalm 97:11).
May we learn and follow the law of the harvest, that we will sow what we reap, either to the flesh bearing sorrow (Proverbs 22:8), or to the Spirit bearing eternal life (Galatians 6:7-8). May we sow God’s Word boldly and bountifully (2 Corinthians 9:6), without waiting for perfect conditions (Ecclesiastes 11:4), so that the harvest of souls brought to Him will be great!
Sowing the precious seed of God’s Word may initially bring the sorrow of disappointment, or even of persecution, as we see no reward for our labor. But if we persevere, we will ultimately rejoice, bearing much fruit (Psalm 126:6; Galatians 6:9) and hearing our Lord say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21,23)
Now that spring is here, may you have hope and faith to sustain you in planting, whether flowers, vegetables, or even muhly grass! May your physical and spiritual gardens soon be in full bloom, and may the Gospel seeds you plant take root in fertile soil!
© 2021 Laurie Collett